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Not long ago, I had a huge a-ha moment: one of those realisations that you know will impact your business for years to come.

One morning, the host of a business-focussed talk radio show reached out to me and asked me for an interview. He’d received a newsletter I’d written, and it had sparked his interest. This wasn’t your typical sales newsletter: It was unconventional. Frankly, it was brutally honest. I’d written it because I was tired of boring newsletters; the ones that people delete before they even make it to the second sentence. I hopped on a call and did the interview. It was broadcast on the radio programme and disseminated across its social media platforms.

I received an email from the host with links to all of their various social media posts and was also tagged in the posts themselves. I shared the interview with our clients and uploaded it to our website. It was something I was proud of: I wanted everyone we worked with to know about it. I even shared it with a group of 300 CEOs. And that’s when I realised something: This guy must have picked up a ton of listeners from my sharing.

I realised that if I could do the same thing for my brand, I could have the same sort of organic reach. And the people sharing my brand with their circles would be proud to spread the word about me. Of course, I don’t have a radio show, so it wasn’t as easy as asking someone for an interview and then sending them the content to share. But I do have an audience and a significant reach, so, I started there.

I began to brainstorm. I decided on a strategy that felt appropriate for our business and for our brand. I identified the top 30 problems that our target customers face. This didn’t take long, as we have an in-depth understanding of our customer personas (and if you don’t, you should). I turned those problems into questions and then asked our clients to answer these questions and share their knowledge.

Specifically, I chose a few clients and asked them all a subset of these questions. I hopped on the phone with them for a quick (seven minutes, tops) interview and told them their answers may be used in a blog or whitepaper. Once the interview was over, our team transcribed it and turn it into a blog post, subsequent social media posts, a SlideShare, a YouTube video and an infographic.

Also Read: The 10 commandments of rockstar online branding

Alongside all of this content, we made sure to include the client’s name, photo and title, and credited them with helping us develop this expert content. Once our social share calendar was ready to go, we emailed this content to our clients and encouraged them to share it in their networks. We’ve found that 75 per cent of our clients retweeted and shared this content with practically all of their colleagues. Why? Because we elevated them to the status of industry expert. We made them feel special — the same way I’d felt when I was asked to do a radio interview. I’d turned my customers into salespeople for my brand.

Suddenly, our clients were blasting their social media networks with our brand name. And when you see these posts, you can tell that they genuinely want to convey how proud they were to be associated with us to their networks. The upshot? Great content, genuine insight and massive brand exposure for us. Meanwhile, the client feels heard, appreciated and proud.

To summarise, here are the steps you can take to encourage your customers to do your brand marketing for you:

1. Write out the top 30 problems that your customer base experiences. Use your existing target persona data.
2. Turn these problems into questions. For example, if the problem is “return on investment for X,” the question could be, “We know that people in your industry struggle with return on investment for X. What strategies do you use to tackle this problem?”
3. Choose a few related problems (and their question counterparts), and select three of your top clients. Ask them the questions about these problems.
4. Use their answers to create well-written, informative content to share with your other customers.
5. Use quotes from your clients (coupled with the content you’ve created) to put together social media headlines and blurbs.
6. Set up a calendar, blast the content on social media and encourage your clients to do the same. Be sure to send them links and tag them in posts to make it easy for them.

Paid advertising has its place, and growing your reach that way is important too. But when you can get your own customers to become your best salespeople — that’s when you know you’re on the right track.

Jessica Gonzalez
Founder of InCharged, cellphone charging stations where consumers plug in their cellphone and sponsors can present non-obtrusive messaging.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organisation comprising the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship programme that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Image Credit: Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash